For over 80 years, superheroes have ignited fans’ imaginations around the world; that is eight decades of history, full of ups and downs – and eight decades of adventures of various iconic heroes. Sadly, while white superheroes were praised during these decades, black characters got pushed to the margin. It was only in 2016 that the audience got to finally see the stories of Marvel’s black heroes (not necessarily detailed stories, though) on the big screen: War Machine (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). And now, in 2018, Black Panther finally received 134 minutes of screen time to tell his captivating tale.
Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), is the 18th production delivered by Marvel and is in many respects groundbreaking. The production took over the Marvel Universe – probably at least until the next Avengers are out in April – and stole the audiences’ hearts as a thrilling film that not only celebrates the iconic black superhero, but also talented black actors – including strong female characters.
The story begins when Prince T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman: Message from the King) returns to Wakanda (a hidden world within the African continent) to take over the throne after his father’s assassination. It soon turns out that T’Challa’s rule will neither be easy nor happy – or long. Not only is there an aggressive black-market arms dealer at large, Ulysses Klaue (a mind-boggling performance by Andy Serkis), but there is also someone else eager to take control over Wakanda – Erik Killmonger, also known as N’Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan: The Wire, Creed). Both antagonists want to get their hands on the deposits of valuable raw material called vibranium, which would give them the ultimate power.
While Black Panther struggles to rule Wakanda and chase after those who threaten his realm, Nakia (Engaging performance by Lupita Nyong’o: 12 Years a Slave, Queen of Katwe), prince’s love interest, tries to give him a helping hand. She is strong and does not need anyone to defend her; she is capable to look after herself. There is also Okoye (Danai Gurira: The Walking Dead), the personal bodyguard to Black Panther, who has her own place in the film – and what a thrilling one it is: Okoye is so faithful to her king, to Wakanda and its traditions, that in order to defend them, she wouldn’t hesitate to kill a loved one. One cannot forget yet another strong female character: Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, played by Letitia Wright. Every scene that she is in sparkles on the big screen. Seeing all of them together is like watching The A-Team on an advanced level. Who will survive and who will lose their life?
Coogler drew on excellent acting talents, from the superb Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, both Hollywood legends, to Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke and the before mentioned cast. Black Panther combines references to the traditions of many African cultures with elements of afro-futurism, with its sociological and political message strengthened by the excellent soundtrack, created by the hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar.
The film’s design is a work of art: Kingdom of Wakanda, the people, their culture, folklore and customs – the production has it all. We have a huge city with technologically advanced buildings and planes; there are also countless mysterious-looking spots in the realm, including panther statues, with idyllic green plains, rivers and waterfalls. The costumes of Wakanda’s inhabitants, their songs and their behavior in certain situations are perfectly designed, written and set; their manner of discussion comes across as very lofty and at times almost metaphysical.
There is no doubt that Black Panther is one of the best Marvel creations; perhaps also the most well-developed and the most intelligent, simply because it addresses a great deal of important matters that are relevant to today’s society all around the globe.
All pictures © Marvel Studios & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures